By Rachel Dzombak, PhD Candidate, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Laboratory for Manufacturing and Sustainability, UC Berkeley
This May, the Sustainable Products & Solutions (SPS) research program at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business brought together representatives from Apple, Google, Kimberly-Clark, and PepsiCo among others, to participate in a daylong forum with students and faculty from across campus. The forum focused on impact measurements for sustainable supply chains and provided a valuable opportunity for participating companies to discuss best practices, current challenges, and opportunities for research. Conversations throughout the day made clear that while much progress has been made in metric development, companies must overcome multiple hurdles to truly implement and operationalize sustainability.
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Fall 2012. I had just graduated from a Master of Science in Environmental Engineering and decided to pursue my PhD on access to safe water in arsenic-affected areas of rural West Bengal, India. In a traditional engineering fashion, my dissertation was about to be purely technical and focus on the removal of arsenic and pathogens from groundwater with a low-cost technology called iron electrocoagulation. This rich scientific topic was fascinating (and still is), but it didn’t feel to be fully relevant by itself. Is a technology enough to address a water crisis such as the one affecting rural Bengal, where millions of hand-pump tubewells are naturally contaminated with arsenic (a poison that causes a range of cancers and premature death)?